Have you ever wondered what else there is? Have you ever looked up from your life to realize that there is a whole other life out there? It can be enticing and intoxicating with all the possibilities. I used to look at everything else and wonder is it better than what I have now. What would it look like or feel like to have the other things? I am in a slightly different place right now.
I grew up in a household where everything else was better than what I had. I have been working hard to forget that time in my life but no matter how hard I try it seems to throw itself back at me time and time again. I grew up in a three bedroom house with 9 of us stuffed in that little place. Our house was in desperate need of a new coat of paint. The light blue peeling exterior was just another sign of the neglect that was so prevalent both inside and out of the house. When I was younger I can remember our house being pretty clean. The floors were clear of clothes and trash. The dishes were done and garbage was taken out. And then something happened that changed everything.
I was still very young, probably around 7, but my dad decided to do two things at the same time. The first was quitting his job because it was too stressful and open his own medical billing business. The second was to remodel the living room adjoining dining room.
His last week at his job was the only time that I ever understood what he did for work. The only exposure I ever had of his work before this was on Christmas each year where as a family we would go and hand out donuts and coffee to the patients and their families that were visiting. Other than that I really did not know much. Well, his last week he had to take me to work with him one day. He was a recreational therapist at the local state run mental health facility. His job was to take groups of patients out for recreation. So he would take them bowling or to play softball. He ran a game room and provided outlets for the patients. I am not sure, but to me, at least on the outside, this job seems a hell of a lot less stressful that most of the jobs I have ever had. After he quit he took all the savings and retirement that my parents had built up and put it into his medical billing business. Unfortunately we lived in a very small town where there was not a demand for it. We had one hospital and one medical clinic. Maybe a couple of dentists, but other than that you had to go to the larger nearby towns to get anything. These businesses did all their own billing so he created a business without a demand and consequently lost everything.
While doing this he wanted to remodel the living room and dining room of our house. So we all got to help with the demo. We tore all the plaster out and old insulation so all that was showing was the exterior wall. He wanted to add a back door that opened onto a deck in the dining room. So he cut out a hole for the door, placed the new one in and held it in place temporarily with a few nails and shims. This door was 4 feet in the air if you looked at it from the outside of the house. Which would have been great once the deck was added. It stayed this way until winter hit, when my mother finally made him at least put insulation in the walls so we would not freeze to death. It stayed this way for about 10 years. Then he finally put up the drywall, but to my knowledge it is still this way.
At the same time our house became a disaster area. Other than my space (because I really did not have a room of my own) the house was a dump. Clothes began to pile up, my dad would collect stuff and just put it downstairs. Our house was so full of trash and dirty clothes that you could no longer see the floor. The bathroom floor was so rotten that you could see the basement. The roof began to get soft spots and the lawn was ignored. I was constantly embarrassed to have anyone over so I never would let anyone visit. In fact, most people never knew where I lived. If I got a ride home I would always ask people to drop me off about a block away and I would run down through the alley to my house. This way they would never see the way I had to live. When my wife and I began dating she did not know where I lived for over 6 months and then it was probably close to a year before I let her inside and then it was not because I wanted her to come in, she insisted. I was embarrassed about how I lived but had no way of changing it. My space was clean but you could only do so much. I am sure it has something to do with my clean freak side.
I began couch surfing and staying with friends instead of living at home. My parents never really noticed nor did they care. I stayed a majority of my time with a friend of mine whose dad was recently divorced and worked two jobs, so he was almost never home. It was only the two of us in his big six bedroom home. I could be gone for days and no one would even notice. I can remember one year I left with my friends for two weeks and once I got back I went to my house to get a few of my things and I ran into my mom and she asked where I was last night. I looked at her and asked why and she said that I got a phone call from someone. That was it. I just left and went back to my friends house.
I got married right after high school. I had been dating my wife for over two years and we decided that we wanted to share our lives together. So I asked her father and he agreed, however I am sure he could not have thought it was the best decision. My wife’s family was polar opposite of mine. And though they did not know much about my family, they still could not have been happy to have their daughter marry so young. Even with all this they made us feel happy about our decision and supported us with it. My wife insisted that we tell my parents even though I really pushed to not include my family in anything. So we went over to my house and told them that we were getting married. I can remember that my mother did not say anything and my dad just said sarcastically “This will be a big step for you.” Then they both got up and walked out on us. It was too bad that I was not more insistent, or that my wife did not realize how miserable they could make things because then we could have kept them out of the wedding and our time would have been so much smoother. As it was things only got worse.
Why do I bring all this up? What does it all mean? I came from a very difficult home that was made more difficult from my father looking at the other life out there and trying to step into it. He gave up all security and future he had. Now I am not saying that people should not risk certain things to get the things they want, however, the opportunity costs and the costs of failure should be considered when making those choices. And you have to ask yourself will this truly make me happy. I have not been good at this recently. I have looked and looked for a better something. I don’t even know what it is that I am looking for, but I have been looking. This has put a huge strain on my marriage and made life incredibly difficult.
I now am able to look at what I have and instead of wondering what else is out there, I am grateful for what I do have now. If I see something that interests me I know look at it in a different way. Most of the time once you get whatever it is that you are desiring, it is not as good as you thought it was. The lure of it goes away and now you are the same as you were before and now looking again for the next new thing. I now look at those things and look at how it could fit in my current life and what are the faults or problems of the object of desire. This helps bring it more into reality and out of the fantasy world that you view it from at a distance. A great example is leaving your spouse for someone else. You may think they are great in all your interactions. You may even be having an affair with this person and so you think you know them intimately, but what you miss is all the day to day stuff that is dragging you down in your own relationship. So you move on to another partner and you have more of the same, just with a different person, but now you also have an ex to deal with and all the stress that comes with it. If you looked at it differently and you looked at the person you are desiring and wonder not only what their faults are, but also what is it that draws you to them. Then share that with your spouse. Tell them that you have been noticing this xxxxxx and you really would like to see how we could make it part of our life. Maybe it is spontaneity, maybe it is a more touchy-feely type relationship, maybe it is just time to relax together away from the everyday things. You may be surprised at the response you get. Your partner may want the same things or at least want to try if not for any other reason than to see you happy. In the end of all of this we are really just trying to all be happy at where we are in life. So are you happy? Are you where you want to be?